Dan Lawlor: Rise of the Independents
Monday, July 16, 2012
What is the status of new party and Independent candidates in the General Assembly elections?
Out of the 75 seats in the RI House of Representatives, there are 22 independent candidates, 1 Moderate Party candidate, and 1 Libertarian Party candidate. Amazingly, despite the high levels of unemployment, the 38 Studios debacle, and growing homelessness, 17 out 75 seats in the House of Representatives were uncontested, including the infamous John Carnevale of Providence, a Quonset Point casino proponent who was facing sexual assault charges before the woman involved died (It's not too late for someone to launch a write-in campaign).
The RI Green Party did not field a candidate for the General Assembly races this year, though individual Greens are supportive of Abel Collins' Independent Congressional campaign against Jim Langevin.
The Moderate Party of RI has two General Assembly candidates in Central Falls-Pawtucket (Nick Gelfuso) and East Providence (Joseph Botelho). The Moderates are also supporting town and school council candidates in Burrillville, South Kingston, and East Greenwich.
“There's an old Rhode Island way of who-you-know vs. what-you-know,” Gelfuso, a lawyer who practices in a converted mill in Central Falls said. “Now, in the world we live in, it must be what you know, we need to put everything we have into building a world class education system. Rhode Island can be a model, and Central Falls can lead the way.”
The Libertarian Party of RI (LPRI) is endorsing two General Assembly candidates. One LPRI candidate, believe it or not, is the anti-Gay-Straight-Alliance, GOP-expelled, and assault and battery time serving Representative Dan Gordon.
LPRI's position is that, "Many other candidates from such political dynasties with names like Kennedy, Bush and others have experienced and, in time, successfully resolved their own challenges in their political careers. We see no reason for discrimination against such individuals so long as their political philosophies and voting records reflect core Libertarian values."
In North Providence, long time activist and candidate Michael Rollins is challenging scandal plagued Senator Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio.
“The Libertarian Party of Rhode Island is very excited about the number of candidates running for office this term that are not the typical major party Democrat or Republicans,” LPRI Executive Board member Gary Whitney said
On a local level, radio host and Libertarian Party candidate Tony Jones is seeking the Town Moderator position in East Greenwich.
The numbers of non-traditional candidates are intriguing. Not counting Moderates or Libertarians, 36 Rhode Islanders are running for General Assembly seats as Independents. From Kenneth Amoriggi III running for an open seat being vacated by Rep Gregory Schadone in North Providence to Beth Croll running against James Doyle II (son of the well-regarded former Mayor) in Pawtucket, a range of candidates are involved. Within that group of independents is a diverse bunch – former Republicans, former Democrats, far-right activists, far-left activists, dreamers, problem solvers, and something in between – yet all are citizens who believe the state can do better. Even when they clearly are outliers, offering voters choice is important, and helps hold incumbents accountable.
Ken Block, Moderate Party Chairperson, has suggested, “In my opinion, Democrats are not Rhode Island’s problem, but the Democratic machine is the problem. Most candidates who run and win as Democrats end up feeding the machine, no matter how ‘reform-minded’ they may be. Moderate Party candidates winning elections is the only way to change people’s thoughts about the ‘truths’ behind RI electoral math. It will be an incremental process, and we are mentally prepared for that approach. ”
“There are serious challenges confronting our state, and few of them are being well handled,” said Mark Binder, a progressive Independent, running for the RI House against Speaker Gordon Fox. “Set aside the economy for a moment. We have created a high stakes education testing system that wrecks teachers and students. We have a public transportation system that founders when oil prices go up because it is funded by a gasoline tax. People use less gas, ridership increases and services are cut If we want corporations to move to Rhode Island we have to sell them on the quality of life that we offer, the beauty of our state, the energy our people have, and the honesty of our government. I believe those will produce more benefits in the long term than tax cuts.”
For new conversations to happen, for different bills to be proposed, for better laws and safe guards to be put in place, there need to be more diverse voices in the legislature.
Is this the year for Independents, unendorsed Democrats, Moderates, Republicans, and Libertarians to gain a few seats? I don't agree with what all of them have to say or represent, but I am glad they are running.
You and your neighbors decide what happens next.
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